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Cyclone Festival of Cycling

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Sleep your way to better performance

Sleep your way to better performance

May 21, 2018 | 7months | Training Tips

This fascinating blog by our partners, Physiotherapy Matters ( offers some advice on sleep, which is an often neglected aspect of training.

Everyone loves a good night’s sleep but in today’s hectic world it is often a neglected form of recovery, especially for the training cyclist. This blog will offer you some insights into the importance of some quality shut eye and suggest some tips to maximise your own sleep.

If we are lacking sufficient sleep the following may occur:

  • Impairments in sport specific skill execution, submaximal sustained exercise bouts and muscular and anaerobic power.
  • Multiple cognitive impairments including greater variation in mood – such poor mood states have been linked to overtraining.
  • Lower general health and increased stress and confusion.
  • Sleep loss in cyclists may reduce the muscle protein re-synthesis mechanism and stimulate processes resulting in muscle degradation.
  • Muscle glycogen stores are reduced during sleep deprivation.
  • Sleep is believed to be important for bone health and sleep deprivation may be a factor in the development of bone stress injuries

Strategies to boost your sleeping power:

Sleep Extension: It is generally accepted that that 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night is recommended for healthy adults but cyclists in training may need 9 to 10 hours of total sleep to reach their full potential. Multiple performance benefits from extending sleep have been reported and we should be aiming for a minimum of 10 hours in bed each night. Even extending sleep duration for as little as one week has been found to increase physical performance measures.

Quality – A cyclist could get 10 hours of sleep per night but if it’s not good quality then no amount of sleep can compensate. There are two main types of complaints for poor sleep quality:

1) Non-restorative sleep – which is the perception of getting enough sleep but the sleep is not refreshing.

2) Disturbed sleep – having restless, light, or fragmented sleep. Impacting factors can include primary sleep disorders, environmental disturbance, and mood disorders.

Top Tip - Feeling refreshed within 30 minutes of awakening and not needing an alarm clock are both a good sign that the cyclist is getting both the quantity and quality of sleep that they need. If a cyclist does not feel like their sleep is restorative and is dissatisfied with the quality of their sleep it would likely be beneficial to seek help from a sleep professional.

Napping: Day time napping may also help to extend sleep and reduce the effects of sleep deprivation. Research has shown that those who take a nap are more productive than those who don’t snooze during the day. For those who are getting between 7.5-9.5 hours of night time sleep we would recommend a daily 20-minute nap
Perhaps a key message to our sleep deprived cyclists is simply sleep a bit more!

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene are the habits conducive to optimal sleep. Here are some tips that can help everyone sleep better.

Alcohol – Helps you fall asleep more easily, but as it is metabolized you wake up more often.
 - Top Tip - Limit alcohol to no more than one drink with dinner (four hours before bed).

Blue/Bright Light – Sends a signal to the brain to wake up which we do not want before bed! Recent research has shown that both electronic devices and bright light can impact your sleep quality and delay your biological rhythm the next day making it harder to fall asleep.
 - Top Tip - Set a technology and bright light curfew one hour before bed. This might include brushing your teeth in the dark if the bathroom lights are bright. Keep technology out of reach so you are not tempted to check it in the middle of the night.

Caffeine – Can take up to 12 hours to be metabolized and can increase time to fall asleep and middle of the night arousals if taken too close to bedtime.
 - Top Tip - If you find yourself having problems falling asleep think about your caffeine consumption and if that could be the culprit. If so, set a caffeine curfew of 11am and avoid food with hidden caffeine in the evening, such as dark chocolate.

The Bedroom – Keep your sleep environment like a cave. Cool, dark, and quiet. Our body temperature drops as we fall asleep making it important to be cool prior to bedtime. A warm bath or shower will temporarily increase our body temperature but, surprisingly, it also quickly plummets so it is a nice precursor to sleep. Both light and sound can impact our sleep quality as well.
 - Top Tip - Use blackout shades, an eye mask, and earplugs to aid in better quality sleep. Ideally the room temperature should be between 17-20 °C (62-68°F).


It is important to assess the sleep quantity, quality, and timing of sleep in cyclists. Something that has not been mentioned that could be impacting your sleep is pain. Whether an acute injury or a niggling injury, pain can impact upon your sleep often waking you from your slumber and should be addressed. For example if it’s pain that’s preventing sleep it’s unlikely that sleep hygiene strategies will be effective.

If pain is affecting your training call us on 0333 2200238 for an assessment from one of our physiotherapists or visit our website at

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